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Reap What you Sow

16 Jul, 2008 By: Rob Gilbert imageSource

Reap What you Sow

In the past few months we have discussed some techniques for building and
capitalizing on a relationship with a prospect.  Many times, however, once a
sale is completed, the sales rep has a tendency to turn a blind eye to their new
customer and move on to the next “target.”  I would suggest to you that some of
the most profitable business you could ever hope for is in your existing base of
accounts.  This comes down to how effectively you maintain and solidify your
relationship with your customers - while they do business with you.  It’s all
about farming.

Many people will tell you that the sales process begins when a problem area
is identified by a prospect or customer and brought to your attention.  While
this can certainly be true, you put yourself at a disadvantage by letting this
process happen around you.  Let’s look at two scenarios to illustrate what I

1. The customer calls you with a problem in an area of their
business.  They offer you the chance to provide some feedback or a possible
solution to the problem.  Perhaps the copier you sold them is being
over-utilized; maybe several printers are becoming more labor intensive or they
have a new marketing campaign that requires a possible color solution.  Just to
be safe, they also got quotes from a couple of other companies even though you
are the “incumbent.”  So now, to keep their business, you have to slash and burn
the GP just to stay on top, when you were already there.  Has that ever happened
to you?  Of course.  It’s happened to all of us. 

It’s not enough to tell a prospect that you are a solutions provider. 
Selling a connected copier or a Cost Per Copy deal to a client CAN be a solution
to a problem.  But here’s where the real work (and the real fun) begins. 
Let’s look at the same account through your eyes as the rep who is farming the
account properly:

2. You sold the customer three connected black MFPs to handle their
daily workload.  As part of your proposal, you told the customer what they could
expect from you.  You told them that in addition to your company, they got you
to oversee them.  It was your job to take care of them, and that this was a
relationship, not just a sale.  You told them that you would be doing quarterly
account reviews with them to keep them updated on how the equipment was
performing.  In doing this, you reported any excess service problems, average
response times, and any workflow issues you saw in the company.  In your fourth
review, you found out that the marketing department was taking on a new project
and would need a piece of equipment to get it done.  As you presented your
review to the CFO, you told them about this need, figured out how to incorporate
it into the existing lease, show a savings over outsourcing the documents, and
had an addendum ready for signature.  Since all the work was done, the CFO
didn’t have to take the time to research the project.  He or she also didn’t
have to bother to work out a budget for it, or wonder why you weren’t aware of
it to start with.  You cost-justified the solution, worked out the logistics,
found an internal change, turned into an opportunity, created a solution, and
delivered a proposal as you were performing an account review with your own

Which of these scenarios looks more beneficial?  Obviously, the second one. 
In the first example, the rep was on auto pilot just cruising along until the
lease ran out on their current deal.  Because the rep didn’t maintain the
account properly, the competition was invited back in.  This should never be the
case.  When you place equipment with a customer, you have a free ticket to visit
the customer whenever you want to!  Why waste it?  I can’t tell you the number
of times I have won business from my competitors by simply turning up the heat
on a minor problem that was happening with their equipment.  The problem for
them (and the benefit to me) was that they were not there to provide any answers
or damage control at all and lost their position of authority in the account. 
In the second example, the rep was constantly in front of the customer.  The
customer knew that the rep knew what was happening in the account.  When this
happens, the customer begins to realize that they can focus on their own issues
and let you focus on their office equipment.  What a wonderful thing that
becomes.  When that happens, you gain credibility with the customer as both a
partner and a problem solver.  You are truly invested in the success of their
company, and want to add value to the organization.  When YOU uncover the need,
then provide a solution and plan of implementation, how much competition do you
think you have?  None.  When there is no competition, what happens to your gross
profit?  It goes up.  Way up.  It is certainly worth the investment in the time
it takes to manage an account properly.

All good farmers keep the ground cultivated so the harvest will be
plentiful.  Stay engaged, provide good information and consultation, remain
honest and open with your customers, in order to be able to keep the weeds (your
competition) out of your well-attended garden!

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